We take this win and 5th seed is - circumstantially - within our grasp.
Will Melo add to his recently regained form and confidence and win the most pivotal matchup of the game?
Even without two of their top players, the New York Knicks continue to have success.
They’ll try for a fourth consecutive victory as they face the struggling Atlanta Hawks in interim coach Mike Woodson’s return to Philips Arena on Friday night.
With Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin missing their second consecutive contests, Carmelo Anthony and rookie Iman Shumpert both had 25 points as New York went on a 21-0 third-quarter run and beat Orlando 108-86 on Wednesday.
Above .500 for the first time since they were 6-5 on Jan. 12, the Knicks (26-25) have won two in a row and eight of nine since Woodson replaced Mike D’Antoni. New York has a 2 1/2-game lead on Milwaukee for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“As a coach I’m always interested in when you’re short-handed who’s going to step up and make plays?” Woodson said. “And we’re getting it from everybody and that to me is a sign of a good, quality team that wants to win.”
While Stoudemire hopes to return from a back problem by the end of the regular season, it’s uncertain if Lin will play Friday due to an injured knee. The Knicks, though, have been faring well no matter who has been on the floor.
Reserves J.R. Smith and Steve Novak combined for 28 points as New York shot 50.6 percent overall and outscored the Magic 65-30 over the second and third quarters.
New York is allowing an average of 86.0 points under Woodson, a vast improvement from the 96.5 opponents were scoring against the Knicks under D’Antoni.
“Right now, with the coaching change, we’ve been playing extremely well,” Anthony said. “Guys seem to be responding pretty well. We’ve been really locked in on our mission right now.”
After failing to score more than 17 points in each of the previous seven games, Anthony has totaled 53 in the last two without Stoudemire and Lin. Anthony scored 15 in a 99-82 home win over the Hawks (30-22) on Feb. 22, but he’s averaged 24.3 points in eight career games at Atlanta.
The Knicks have won three straight over the Hawks by an average of 14.0 points, and they’ve taken three of four at Philips.
Woody Returns To The Turd's Nest
Woodson gets a chance to experience this matchup from the Knicks’ point of view after serving as Hawks coach from 2004-2010. His former team has dropped two straight since a four-game winning streak, falling 98-77 to Chicago on Wednesday.
Atlanta showed some expected fatigue against a Bulls team that was without injured star Derrick Rose, shooting 40.0 percent for the game and getting outscored 77-54 after the first quarter. The Hawks were playing for the fifth time in six days.
“We couldn’t get anything going,” said forward Josh Smith, who had a team-high 19 points.
Hawks star Joe Johnson, however, thought the problem ran deeper than the busy schedule. Atlanta had jumped out to a 13-5 lead.
“Sometimes, we’re not so disciplined,” Johnson said. “It seems like there’s a few guys who don’t know their roles on this team. We do a lot of things that don’t help us.”
That hasn’t been the case for Smith, who’s averaged 25.5 points and 12.2 rebounds in the last six games. He’s averaged 21.7 and 10.0 in the last three at home versus New York.
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